Applied Efficiency: A New NBA Scoring Efficiency Stat

by Baltej Parmar

Comparing players is the stock in trade of fandom. Whatever your team, everyone wants to know which player is better than his peers. Statistics allow us to compare various aspects of player performance – perhaps most notably efficiency. “Russell Westbrook has a career FG% of .434, while Stephen Curry has a FG% of .476. The difference isn’t much.” Are we sure that a difference of .042 is not much, though? The scale of statistics can make it difficult to use them responsibly in comparisons. In the example above, Curry makes 42 shots more than Westbrook out of 1,000. Since a player doesn’t take 1,000 shots in a game, it is not directly obvious how much more likely Curry’s team is to win a game based on the difference in FG%. What if we had a better way to measure how much a player’s shooting impacts the score on a game-by-game basis? That’s why I’m introducing Applied Efficiency, a new NBA stat which does just that.

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The Muses’ Notebook (Sep. 24)

by Baltej Parmar

For this series, I will be posting research that I’ve looked into and posted on my Twitter but wanted to expand and add some more thoughts about the data. Recently I looked into shot selection for all teams based on league average shooting talent. In other words, how good would each team’s offense be if they made a league average percentage of the shots they took, given the type of shots they took? I created two tables which you can see below. The first table accounts for whether or not three-point attempts were contested by the defense, as well as the location of the shot. Doing should tell us both how “good” or “bad” a shot is in terms of location as well as openness.

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The Importance of Shot Selection

by Baltej Parmar (Twitter: @BaltejNBA)

Entering the 2018–19 NBA preseason, the Milwaukee Bucks over/under was set at 47.5 wins by Las Vegas. They just won 44 games in the previous season under the coaching of Jason Kidd. A small improvement was expected from internal growth and the change in coaching from Jason Kidd to Mike Budenhulzer. However, the major jump that ended up taking place should have been possible to foresee by the end of the preseason.

As the preseason was ending, multiple columnists and writers notes the change of the Buck’s offense under Budenholzer. Still, most viewed the Bucks as a middle-of-the-pack team in the East that was likely to end up in the high 40s or maybe break the 50 win mark. Their shot selection drastically changed, but the talent was not highly regarded. Let’s dive into the Bucks offense from a statistical perspective and see what the actual changes were.

Note: I will be ignoring free throws for this current exercise. All data is collected from NBA.com

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